One of the biggest mistakes that I see people make at the lower levels is overplaying their draws. The primary reason why we semi-bluff (a bluff with a draw where we can improve) is to get our opponent to fold. If we are up against someone that we know has a strong hand in their own eyes, and that player has a history of not folding these types of holdings is this a spot for us to make a semi-bluff?
We have all seen the “tight” player type, especially in $5 blind games. These guys come to the casino and a lot do not really pay attention to the game. They wait to play very strong hands preflop or pocket pairs. They are not in the business of folding their hands postflop because they play so few hands.
Let us take a look at a spot that I saw go down last week. The game is $5-$5 and both opponents are $800 deep. A player in his mid 60s opens from under the gun to $25 and a young, decent player that plays a looser style makes the call from the button. The board runs out J♥ 7♦ 2♥. The under the gun player continuation bets $50 into the pot and the young guy raises to $250. The older player calls rather quickly. The turn is the 3♠ and the old guy checks. The player in the field now bets $400 and the guy upfront quickly check raises all-in. The young guy calls and the river is the 5♣. The young guy turns over Kh Qh and the older guy wins the pot with A♣ A♠. The younger guy shakes his head in disgust and mutters something about how “he has a set there almost always and can’t believe how bad he runs.” Do you think that the young guy made a good play?
I have talked extensively in past articles about how we can determine our opponent’s strength based about their bet sizing. This under the gun player was one of the tightest at the table and his raise from up front represents extreme strength. We also know that when he bets close to pot he almost always has something and since he is the type that would most likely limp or fold AJ he is usually going to have an overpair or two overcards and a flush draw. Since the younger guy had the king and the queen of hearts in his hand, the flush draw part of his range is basically impossible. His most likely holdings are AA, KK, QQ or JJ, and combination wise it is most likely that he holds AA because of the board and the younger guys hand. Is this a good spot to try and bluff a guy off of AA?
No matter what the scenario it is normally never a good approach to bluff a recreational player off of AA. Higher-level players would also point out that the younger guy is representing a very thin value range because the board is disconnected. He can only have sets that beat AA because he would not be playing a hand like J7s for a raise. So, what if the board was something like 4♠ 5♥ 6♥ where the young guy could also have sets, two pair and straights? Would it be better for a semi-bluff here? Well, it really depends on your opponent and whether or not he is capable of folding an overpair. The fact of the matter is, against not-thinking players who are only considering their own hand strength, the board makes no difference. If they have an overpair they are not going to fold.
The same can be said when it is obvious that your opponent holds a very strong hand post flop. It is absolute suicide to try and bluff a scare card, like a front door flush or a one liner to a straight, when these guys just are not going to fold. Of course you can use this knowledge against them when you actually make your hand and should absolutely bet larger to maximize your value.